My 10 year old daughter came home after being at her friend’s house with some sensory balls that she made herself. I thought it was a really cool concept, and asked if she could teach me how to make them! So we turned this idea into a weekend STEAM project. These sensory balls were fun to make, plus they were educational! This project can go in a number of directions with different color polymer beads, balloon sizes, and amount of water.
- Multi-colored polymer beads (slippery spheres)
- Glow in the dark polymer beads
- Clear balloons
- Sorting bowls
- Water bottle
Step 1: Fill a bowl with water and add polymer beads. We used about a tablespoon for each color, which ended up making 4 sensory balls. The beads will start to absorb the water within 15 minutes and will be full grown within a few hours.
Step 2: Pour the fully grown beads into a water bottle. We found that if you fill the 16.9 oz bottle with beads, you get the perfect size stress ball! Then fill the bottle about halfway with water. This will keep the beads moist when they are inside the balloon.
Step 3: Blow up the balloon about halfway. Hold the air in with one hand, and stretch the end of the balloon over the top of the water bottle with the other hand. TIP: It helps to have another person hold the water bottle in place!
Step 4: Squeeze the water bottle to get the beads inside of the balloon. This step is really fun! They fall perfectly into the balloon, along with the water. It also makes a pretty cool sound, adding to the sensory experience!
Step 5: Let some air and water out of the balloon until you are happy with the shape and size. Be sure to keep enough water inside so the beads won’t dry out. Then tie the balloon.
Squeeze the balloon and enjoy your DIY sensory ball!
Experimenting with Sensory Balls
After we practiced making a few sensory balls, we started to experiment! First we tried glow in the dark polymer beads. It was fun to see the balloon glow, and really added to the sensory impact. We also experimented with different amounts of water. Using measuring spoons, we put 6 different amounts of polymer beads into water and let them grow. The smallest amount used was 1/4 teaspoon and the most beads used was 1 tablespoon. It was fun to see how the different number of beads affected the size and the look of the balloons.
Have fun with colors! The slippery spheres kit comes with 5 different color packets: red, yellow, blue, green, and purple. But when you add water and the beads grow, you will find there are different shades of each which was very cool. We created a few multicolor sensory balls which were our favorite. Then we separated out the pastel colors (blue, purple, green) so pink and yellow were left. Here is what they each looked like:
Another great thing about this project is the water in the balloons doesn’t evaporate, so the beads stay fully grown, making the stress balls last forever! You can also add artwork to your stress ball by coloring with permanent markers or using fun colored balloons. This project can also work with kinetic sand or flour. My daughter brought one of these home too, so it was fun to compare. You can also try using coloful balloons for a less visual and more tactile sensory project.
Questions to Ask:
- Which amount of beads works the best for you?
- What happens if you add food coloring to the water?
- What happens when you add more water? Is it easier or harder to squeeze?
- Which colors provide the best sensory experience for you?
- What is the difference between using beads and kinetic sand? How about flour?
When you apply a lot of pressure to the sensory balls, the polymer beads do crush fairly easily. You can use this as another sensory experience. Have kids crush each of the polymer beads inside the balloon. Then ask them describe the difference of how it feels.
Check out these photos and feedback on Pinterest from others who have tried this activity and loved it! If you try it, we’d love to get your feedback and see photos of your finished sensory project.